Saturday, November 6, 2010
Violet week: CB I Hate Perfume - Violet Empire
It's Violet Week! This is my last post in a little joint blogging with two other perfumistas. Check out the violet perfume reviews at Muse in Wooden Shoes and Redolent of Spices.
What are we really smelling when we smell violets? The sweet scent is due to molecules called ionones, which were first separated from the violet flower in 1863. Since then, almost all violet perfume are created with synthetic ionones, making their manufacture much less expensive than using a natural oil, if you could even find one. Christopher Brosius couldn't find that natural oil, so he created an accord for Violet Empire that he called Violet Empress, to mimic the smell of live violets, and the way their shy perfume seems to fade and reappear over time.
Brosius was inspired to create Violet Empire by the book A Natural History of The Senses, and its description of violets as being the favourite scent of Empress Josephine de Beauharnais, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. But recently Brosius blogged that he changed his mind about the proper time period for Violet Empire. He now feels that it's not so much an early 19th century smell as an ancient Minoan one. He was reading a book about Crete and the Minotaur when he created it.
What does it smell like?
The inspiration makes sense to me, because Violet Empire isn't really about the violets, it's all about the leaves. While violet flowers may not be used in perfumery anymore, violet leaves most certainly are. They have a spicy green smell that is very popular, especially in masculines
Violet Empire starts with a brilliant green. It smells like mint and grass and pine needles. This green veil is created with the spicy violet leaves and elemi, a tree resin with a minty-pine scent. After a few minutes the green is joined by soft, smooth woods. It's a beautiful, evocative scent - both fresh and comforting. It's also very unisex. The violets peep out now and again around the green woods, but they are never overly sweet or fruity, as in other violet perfumes. I smell them most after a few hours, when they are just a definite "purple" presence after the greens have faded.
I still wonder what Brosius was getting at when he said that Violet empire was about ancient Crete. Was the Minotaur misunderstood? Was he really a poor creature, trapped in a labyrinth by a king, dreaming of green grass, shady trees and tiny flowers?
CB I Hate Perfume
Nose: Christopher Brosius
Notes: Violet, Elemi, Violet Leaf Absolute, Rosewood, Mahogany, and Russian Leather.
Photo: violets, AC'63
Photo: Crouching Minotaur, Nicola Hicks
P.S. For all you Torontonians, you can find Violet Empire and other cool CB I Hate Perfume scents like I Am A Dandelion and Winter of 1972 at the darling Ewanika. Nope, they're not paying me anything to mention them, I just think the store is really cool and Trish Ewanika was a doll when I went in there and spent an hour sniffing the perfumes.